What can schools do to prevent the spread of Covid-19?

A teacher at Mafahleni High School, a rural school more than 80 kilometres from Pietermaritzburg, is concerned about absenteeism in the Grade 11 class

Procedures for schools on the prevention of the spread of Covid-19

The Standard Operating Procedure for the Prevention, Containment and Management of Covid- 19 in Schools and School Communities provides guidelines for all administrators on the approved steps that must be taken to prevent the spread of, and manage cases of Covid-19 within the basic education sector.

The role of schools in responding to Covid-19

  • Schools have been identified high-risk areas, in terms of ease of transmission, due to the close contact of large numbers of people. 
  • Schools must prepare to take the steps necessary to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among their learners and staff, and must prepare for the possibility of sporadic community-level outbreaks, stay-at-home or lockdown orders for learners, staff, whole classes or grades, or the entire school, if recommended by health officials.
  • School plans should be designed to minimise the disruption of teaching and learning, and protect learners and staff from social stigma and discrimination. Plans can build on the recommended everyday practices (the Golden Rules): encouraging conscientious hand hygiene (frequent and thorough hand washing and avoidance of touching of the face and eyes), cough etiquette, staying at home when sick, and monitoring absenteeism and communicating routinely.
  • Decisions regarding appropriate public health interventions should always be made in consultation with public health officials who have access to all of the relevant latest information. These decisions include whether learners or educators should stay at home for a period of time and whether learners in sections of a school or the entire school should be dismissed from attendance.

General Precautions

High risk persons

In the last 14 days, have you:

  • Travelled outside of South Africa to a country with lots of coronavirus, or worked somewhere where there are a lot of international travellers.
  • Travelled within South Africa to an area with local transmissions: Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Free state, Eastern Cape.
  • Had close contact with someone who is suspected to have Covid-19 or has been diagnosed positive with Covid-19.
  • Attended/Visited/Worked at a healthcare facility that has treated patients with Covid-19.

If an employee, learner or visitor answer “Yes” to one or more of the questions above, they are at high risk of Covid-19 infection and the necessary precautions should be instituted immediately for screening.

Screening for Covid-19

During the screening process, you will be asked whether you have any symptoms associated with Covid-19, such as:

  • high temperature
  • a cough
  • a sore throat
  • difficulty breathing (shortness of breath)
  • weakness and fatigue
  • loss of sense of taste and small

If the answer to all the questions is “No”, the session can end and the learner/employee permitted to enter the school for a temperature check. If the temperature taken is higher than 380C or any one of the questions are answered “Yes”, the learner/employee will become a “person under investigation” (PUI) and must be isolated and referred for testing.

Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) must advise employees who show symptoms associated with Covid–19 not to come to work and to take paid sick leave (in terms of section 22 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act). Schools must advise parents to keep their children at home if they are unwell.


Entry by visitors, parents, and vendors is prohibited unless it is essential.

All visitors must:

  • Wear a face mask and sanitise their hands at the entry point
  • Make an appointment and state the nature of their visit
  • Report to the reception area and sign a register

Stakeholder Responsibilities


Learners should be encouraged to:

  • Wash their hands frequently, always with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Keep their nails and teeth clean.
  • Refrain from touching their eyes, mouth and face.
  • Not share cups, eating utensils, food or drinks with others.
  • Sneeze or cough into a bent elbow or tissue, and to discard the tissue safely in a bin with a lid, then wash their hands immediately.
  • Refrain from teasing anyone about being sick.
  • Share what they learn about preventing disease with their family, friends, and siblings.
  • Tell their teacher or parents if they feel sick, and to stay at home.

The School Management Team (SMT), School Governing Body (SGB) and staff

SMT, SGB and staff members must:

  • Stay informed about Covid-19 through reputable sources and share this information with all stakeholders.
  • Establish a Covid-19 committee in the school.
  • Place signs or posters encouraging good hand and respiratory hygiene practices.
  • Prepare and maintain handwashing stations with soap and water within 5 meters of toilets and bathrooms.
  • Place 60% alcohol-based hand sanitisers in each classroom, at entrances and exits, at the reception/front office and near lunchrooms.
  • Implement an education programme for learners and staff on Covid-19 using the Life Orientation/ Life Skills subject as an anchor.
  • Ensure that cleaning staff clean and disinfect school buildings thoroughly and regularly (following the DBE Guidelines on Maintaining Hygiene in Schools during Covid-19).
  • Pandemic and environmental health cleaning and decontamination protocols.
  • Ensure that trash is removed daily and disposed of safely.
  • Ensure that the school principal procures and has available sufficient quantities of hand sanitisers, soap and disposable drying material for all classrooms, toilets, offices and staffrooms.

The SMT and SGB must ensure that:

  • There is regular communication with parents via newsletters, telephone, bulk SMS messages, emails, etc. to minimise meetings/gatherings with parents.
  • There are very limited class-based parents’ meetings.
  • Work on the practicality of implementing social distancing per class to apply the 1.5m social distance norm, wherever practicable. Consequently, the number of learners per classroom must be reduced, where possible.
  • Schools or school halls should not be utilised for funerals or any other public gatherings to minimise contamination of school facilities and to observe the social gathering restrictions.
  • Schools must identify an isolation room for suspected cases and persons under investigation by the local health authorities.

Source: Department of Basic Education